Tristessa, Jack Kerouac, Avon Press, New York, 1960
…sure she was a whore, a small buxom brown-skinned with dancing eyes mex whore with nice sex hips, sex thighs and sex legs, with the blood of about six civilizations, mex, gringo, atzec, spain, carib, injun who knows what else got mixed in, maybe more, all mixed together, but a whore nevertheless, she never said otherwise, and he, Jack Deval, never believed otherwise, and that was her attraction, that and her ability to drive him up a wall with her little bag of whore tricks passed down from older sisters, and who knows maybe going back to some Eve whore bag. Still he dug her, dug her fire, dug her desire, often expressed, to be the best whore in Mexico (expressed in a desire to graduate to some big Mexico City bordello and show the gringos that flocked to those establishments what a mex whore could do, and not do, if he was generous enough, and to give each man she serviced not what he wanted, but what he needed). She studied sex books and sexy literature, some of it kind of high-brow, and not all only modern either, for a while in order to prep herself for the move up.
Yah, he dug, her, her and even, for a while, her sister habit that was keeping her in Sonora and away from Mexico City mex whore dreams (and around him as long as he dug her). He dug too, that while she was a whore, she had something else, something white, pure white, saving white, in that fellahin dusty Sonora world not saint, not church saint (although she confessed to him that she liked to do her anointed work in church sometimes and then confess to a priest right after thus saving steps, time, and the hypocrisy of staring old peasant women eyes. Sometimes she could hear the priest’s breathe quicken and she would add a couple of extra details, usually how she took it in her mouth or up her bum, to get him going even more to cut down on the penance.), when after making love, or after she met sister (and he bonged the weed or hash pipe) they talked about dreams, about the other world (not heaven or hell but some state where things were cool, cool when all the craziness of the world passed them by)
Her name, her whore name? Hope, you know but in mex hope. Her real name, her sanctified name, Happy but in mex happy. Where did they meet? Where the hell do you think they met, in church ? Nah, not him , although the thought turned him on sometimes, he could never get up the nerve to break with his boyhood awe of the incense, the wine (he had been an altar boy),the high holy day choir, the plainsong of the church, the search for meaning in this wicked old world that he still craved and was trying to get a handle on down in the fellahin Sonora nights. They met in the bar at the Durango Hotel when he blew into town from Juarez , she, off duty just then, sized him up as a long gone daddy from Estados Unidos, maybe had some dough, or some wisdom (at least that is what she said later, although that could have been a con, she was always conning him and everybody that she knew, except her pimp, Felipe, who had given her a few too many welts to con), came over and offered to buy him a drink, he said scotch, she said okay and what else. That night she had on her tight dress that showed all the boys what she had without showing them all she had, the one that was split down one side so that all those hungry boys could see a little silky brown thigh and imagine, well, just imagine whatever guys imagine when they see that much skin, and inflame that much desire.
Before long they were talking the spiritual talk that he mentioned before and she told him, in the same tone she would use if she were a librarian, that she was a whore (she didn’t go into the details of her expected career path that night), but that she was off the clock and kind of man hungry, and he looking kind of fellaheen beat, beatified beat, gringo beat, and not some texas cowboy beat that usually came into the Durango, or hell no, some mex fellaheen beat that was all around her, drew her eye. They finished their drinks and hustled off to her room (her own room, not her whore room a couple of streets over, that would come later), a room in the pobre mex part of town, all crazy and million people, kin, not kin, ninos, hermanos, whatever, and some barnyard animals floating around the lobby of the building. She said not a word, nor did he, but both as if in a trance blazed through the craziness, their first mex adventure.
As they climbed the stairs to her third floor room she stopped on the second floor, knocked on the door, and an old geezer beat gringo daddy, later he would be introduced as Sunshine Sam, came to the door. Nothing was said but Sam went away and came back a couple of minutes later with small wrapped package and some cigarettes that had the distinct smell of weed. Okay, it was going to be that kind of party. That night was the first time in his presence where she met sister, although it would not be the last, not by a long shot. And he smoked that righteous mex gold weed.
What did Jack say she said before, oh yah, she didn’t care about what a man wanted but what he needed. That night, sister high which seemed counter-intuitive to him from what he had seen in ‘Frisco and the Village where those sister adapts tended to go coma-like, she displayed all her arts, or as much as he could handle before crying no mas early the next morning. She just smiled and started playing with herself with a little sex toy she took out of her bureau drawer. After she aroused herself and let out an immense murmur she too cried no mas and they both fell asleep, both sweaty in the mex night. Next day she resolved and he put up no argument that he would move in, do his writing there and they would talk, world talk, have sex, world sex, and let the craziness of dusty mex streets, the world craziness, float past.
Of course like all thing, all Jack Deval things, the routine of mex living, mex whore living, the thing could not, would not, last forever, or even six months.Hope was getting deeper in the sister trenches, making less dough since her pimp was taking a bigger cut sensing maybe that her days as a meal ticket were getting shorter and since she had lost her place at the Durango pick-up and was working the desperado streets against some just off the farm peasant whores, and was frankly less sexy, and less interested in sex as they progressed. Jack, for his part, came to recognize that his secular beat saint program was not going to work, not compared to what Sunshine Sam had to offer. One night, one rainy night, mud puddles forming in the dirt-encrusted streets he walked down those three flights of stairs while Happy was out working a texas cowboy trick, walked toward the bus station and headed for El Paso, and world sorrows. He never did hear from other guys who headed to Sonora later what happened to her (although he could guess) but he always remembered those nights when she gave him what he needed, and he would tip his fingers to his hatless head and whisper her name, happy.